The Missouri Water Patrol reports nobody was killed in a boating accident during the long July 4th holiday period. The patrol says BWI (boating while intoxicated) arrests also seemed to be down. The Patrol’s Sergeant Ralph Bledsoe, who spent the weekend working at the Lake of the Ozarks says traffic there appeared to be a little lighter than it was for Memorial Day.
A House committee is mulling over a bill that could lead to raised taxes on alcohol. Supporters call it an “impact fee” or “user fee” – not a tax hike. Call it what you will, it would increase revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Representative Bill Deeken of Jefferson City, the sponsor, says legislative approval of this bill would send the proposal to a vote of the people. But Anheuser-Busch lobbyist John Britton, an opponent, says a ballot initiative would be a bad idea. he doesn’t think Missourians would have enough information on which to make an informed vote. Among the proposed increases: 18 cents a gallon on beer, 36 cents a gallon on wine, and $2 a gallon on distilled spirits. The money would pay for drug and alcohol prevention, intervention, treatment, rehabilitation, and support for recovery.
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House Bill 1162
This weekend could be a profitable, but challenging, weekend for bar and restaurant owners who sell alcohol. Revelers will be ringing in the New Year – many with drink in hand. Pete Lobdell, State Supervisor for Tobacco and Liquor Control, says servers must be aware some of those trying to get a drink will be too young or will have already had too much to drink. Lobdell says most of the time, most licensees are conscientious about who they serve. But Lobdell says just because he knows why it can happen, it doesn’t make it all right. He warns liquor license owners they face several consequences if they serve a minor or someone already drunk. Those consequences include revocation of their license, criminal charges, and a civil lawsuit.
The holidays mean a lot of us are getting together with friends and drinking. That’s not such a wise move for anyone who’s driving. So, the Missouri Insurance Information Service is reminding folks about the importance of designated drivers. Executive Director Calvin Call says it’s not just party guests who have to think about this – but hosts, as well. In addition to promoting the idea of designated drivers, the Information Service advises hosts to shut down the bar an hour before a party is about to end. It also suggests hosts be prepared to either put up guests for the night or provide them with transportation home.
State liquor control agents have been working in college towns throughout Missouri for the last few weeks, training the people who will be serving alcohol to new or returning students. Liquor control supervisor Dale Roberts wants to train bartenders, servers, package liquor store clerks and others to spot fake identity cards, people too drunk to drink, and other situations. He and his agents have been on the road in recent weeks, holding meetings in the main college communities. He says he’d rather see those businesses make profits instead of paying fines. Roberts says his people sometimes go into a community before the training sessions to see what needs to be emphasized in the training sessions. He says the training is welcome most of the time. Roberts says 95 percent of the businesses want to cooperate with his agency. He adds they’re in business to make money, not problems.
Missouri has a new law that steps up the fight against underage drinking. The new law attacks young people and adults. Senator Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), sponsor of the bill in the Senate, got advice from a lot of high school students and says the legisalture has taken that advice. A new crime is created for underage drinkers: possession by consumption. An underage drinker with a blood-alcohol level of .02 will be considered in possession of alcohol. The law requires school districts to create a policy detailing consequences if students are found with or found drinking on school property or at school events. Governor Blunt says one out of three high school students admits to being binge drinkers. Blunt says it will take a coordinated effort by students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and law makers to deter underage drinking.
It turns out the Jefferson County sniper wasn’t a sniper at all, just a tipsy teenager shooting a gun at his sister’s party. Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer says the situation wasn’t as serious as police thought. Police had worried they had a sniper at loose. Boyer says the sister of 19-year-old Donald Christy had thrown a party while her parents were gone and some of the guests went out in the yard and shot at some trees, not realizing Highway 30 was nearby and not realizing police officers thought they were being shot at. Christy is being held for unrelated traffic violations and might be charged with unlawful use of a weapon. Boyer says more charges might be filed later.
The Senate endorses a plan to solve a dining dilemma that has bedeviled Missourians for decades. It helps people who get a nice bottle of wine at a restaurant and then are faced with drinking the whole thing or leaving their expensive wine behind when they leave. Senator John Griesheimer of Washington has handled the “Merlot to Go” bill, which lets people have the bottle re-sealed and put in a tamper-proof bag and take it home. The House has to give final approval to the bill.
Minors who have it or drink it could be in bigger trouble in Missouri under a bill approved by the State Senate. And, it gives school boards some longer arms. Younger than 16 and caught with alcoholic beverages? Don’t count on getting your drivers license until you’re 18. Younger than 21 and caught the license is gone for two to four years. And, if you’re in high school the school board can kick you out of sports and extra-curricular activities or even suspend you if it wants – even if you’re not on school property when you break the law. Sponsor Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood says these ideas have come from students themselves, testifying before Senate committees. Still unresolved is just how far the school district can go – for instance, whether the schools can penalize a student who breaks the law during summer vacation. The bill requires school districts to have policies by June 30th, 2006. Only three weeks remain for the bill to make it through the House. Gibbons says it will be close, but he thinks it can be done.
The Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill toughening the penalties for anyone causing harm as a result of drinking and driving. The legislation passed by the Senate is a compilation of several bills put forward this session. Senator Gary Nodler of Joplin sponsors the package, saying too many drunk drivers are getting away with too much. Among the elements of the bill: Tougher sentences for persistent drunk driving offenders and delays on parole eligibility for those sent to prison. Nodler says the fact too many people are breaking the current drunk driving laws is an indication the penalties are not harsh enough. Another positive vote in the Senate sends the bill to the House.